Cardiff Metropolitan University

Monitoring the hearts of chimpanzees

Research carried out at Cardiff Metropolitan University is helping to understand why cardiac disease is such a major contributor to the death of great apes.

There is limited information on what is “normal” in relation to cardiac structure and function of primates, which is why researchers from Wales travelled to a sanctuary in West Africa to find out why cardiac disease is so prevalent in chimpanzees.

The team, comprising veterinary practitioners, cardiac physiologists and cardiologists, analysed the electrical activity of the heart in a sample of 100 healthy chimpanzees over four years. They performed electrocardiograms, also known as ECGs, while the primates were undergoing other medical assessments.

The tests were conducted among chimpanzees at the Jane Goodall Institute’s Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Centre in the Republic of the Congo – the largest chimpanzee sanctuary in Africa.

The data, which has been collated since 2009, revealed that most of the primates had a cardiac rhythm similar to humans, but that many of the animals had evidence of LVH, or left ventricular hypertrophy, which signifies enlargement and thickening of the heart’s walls or pumping chamber.